What one post taught me about 2020 and myself

On October 19th, I inadvertently conducted an experiment… on myself.

I shared a meme. One must be very careful sharing memes. I know this because I did an entire presentation on how unpredictable a meme can be. I recorded it and put in YouTube on October 15th.

Here it is.

Apparently I didn’t take very good notes, because I walked right into exactly what I warned my audience about.

I warned that memes contain many cues and coded messages that different audiences will read differently. I warned that one must be very careful sharing a meme, never sharing one unless one is entirely sure what the meaning is.

Just because I teach it doesn’t mean I always get it right.

Here’s the meme:

Looks pretty innocuous, or inspirational, or offensive, depending on who you are.

I got a lot of comments.

Some were positive. Most were not. And it was a bit of an ink blot test. Everyone saw echoes of their own life in the image, and that was what they reacted to.

The life cycle of this post is repeated across social media thousands of times a day. People find themselves in heated conflict with friends and strangers alike and don’t even know how they got there.

I thought that it might be beneficial to share some of the comments and analyze how people respond very differently to the same piece of content and every one of them is entirely accurate within their own experience.

My hope with this article is to help readers look at the words of others who are in different situations in life with more empathy and understanding. We all tend to see the world for what we are more than for what it truly is. When we understand that, we can get along a little better.

What did I see?

What I saw was an inspirational, slightly aggressive message of the potential to change and improve one’s life. If one does those seven things, they will avoid most adult problems. That is true. The issue is that not everyone can do all seven.

The way I approach things is that I am always looking for guidance and strategies for continuous improvement. I look at the advice, take the best and implement it. I can never implement it all, so when I see something like this, my reaction is to look at the seven items, figure out which one I could do better at, and focus there.

This was not the reaction of many other people, which is entirely reasonable.

Of the seven pieces, only two did not get someone upset about them (eating real food and finding three friends).

Some people liked it, Some people hated it

On the other hand, there were some people who responded quite positively to the post. For example, this one.

Very few people were neutral. Most were either very much in agreement or very much in opposition. I believe that had to do with how one finds themselves when they compare themselves to the seven suggestions.

Those who look at them and say “yup, that’s what I’m doing,” thought it was great. Those who were not doing at least one of the suggestions responded more like this.

Many people took issue with one particular suggestion or another.


I was caught off guard by the fact that many people took “second income source” to mean “second job.” In my coaching work, it is natural to talk to people about multiple streams of income.

It is a strategy to create stability, but it rarely suggests that one should have a second job. More often it is either selling creative work, or doing some kind of side business.

However, reading the comments reminded me that for many people, income and job are synonymous. Our capitalist system likes when people think the only way they can make money is to have a job.

This gives them the power to pay you what they want, explaining why someone might get paid $15 per hour for work that earns the company $100. If you knew you could get a side gig that paid $200 per gig, then you might not be so attached to that $12/hour job.

If one read that to mean “get a second job” then I can completely understand why that would seem like a pretty insulting piece of advice.

There were some who took it the same way I did, and apparently the idea has some broad traction.


This one is intrinsically problematic because it’s irreversible. You can get a second income or reduce your expenses or start working out, but you can’t go back on having kids with the wrong person.

This led to responses which brought up very good points about why this element is a problem.

There was a through line to many of these comments that the meme was too proscriptive. It made it sound like you should just do these things, and if you didn’t then your problems were your fault.

Not recognizing this was a failure of imagination on my part. I should have recognized that people who already had kids with the wrong person would take particular exception to this one.

While most of the responses, I could see as a difference of opinion and perception, I am honestly quite sorry for the sincere offense that I cause to a few people because of this line.

Sometimes we all need a little slap in the face to realize the privileges we do have. This was one of those times for me.


I do my best to be alert to the concerns of others who have different levels of privilege from myself. Naturally, I would never judge someone for not working out if they are physically unable to do so.

Because of that, I ascribed that same discernment on the meme. Naturally others did not.

It was pointed out to me that this might be particularly offensive to someone who has physical limitations and has been bludgeoned with the ridiculous message of “well, maybe if you worked out more,” from nitwits who know nothing of their situation.

When one considers that, the reaction is quite reasonable.

This is one where I saw how it could be objectionable from the jump. The idea of living below your means definitely assumes a certain level of income.

Below that income, there are certain irreducible costs that make it impossible to reduce living costs below income.

Of course, in my work, I help people to increase their income, but that is a multistep process, so there’s no reason to assume the causal reader would look at this line and say, “this makes sense, and I can do it by working with Michael to find a side hustle.”

Absent that, this also could reasonably trigger reactions in people who have been told to “live below their means” when they were already eating rice and beans and freezing to save money. This is one I know well from personal experience.

Other Reactions

If one doesn’t realize the visceral reactions that people could have to these suggestions, one could respond, as I initially did before a bit of soul searching, by saying that it’s constructive criticism and people should accept it as a method of self improvement.

A comment like this makes sense if you’re talking about, for example, the importance of being able to work extra hours to start a side hustle. It would not be taken very well if it’s in response to someone being offended by the part about picking the wrong co-parent. (It was actually ambiguous as to which comment this responded to.)

As I often see on Facebook, many threads of conversation were people talking past each other. People from different backgrounds and different experiences speaking as if their experience and background was universal and not taking into account.

Fortunately, since I’m pleased to say I associate with people of above average intelligence and wisdom, there were some productive conversations as people came together from different viewpoints and found common ground.

Beware the meme

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Just because something catches your eye as true in a meme doesn’t mean it will strike everyone else the same way. Some memes may be safe to share, but you never know when your innocent share might result in offense.

The safe path is to express your own ideas. If you do choose to share a meme, however, be sure to do a quick Google search to make sure it’s not part of some larger agenda that you don’t support. Also, take a moment to think about how people different from you might perceive it.

And look and see if there’s a better version.


Michael Whitehouse is a coach, author, speaker, and occasionally proficient user of social media. He helps people to improve their lives by building their business, discovering their passion, and developing that second income source (not a second job).

Subscribe to his email list to see more of his writing and speaking.

Kevin Booker Jr, Booker Empowerment LLC – Episode 43

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Website

Subscribe: Spotify Apple Podcasts | iHeartRadio

In this episode our guest host is Kevin Booker of Booker Empowerment LLC. He offers leadership and diversity training, empowering people to be a better version of themselves. Together, we answer…

…what to do if you’re stuck in an unfulfilling job.

…how to be a great teacher.

…what it takes to become comfortable with public speaking

…how to bring about real change in terms of equity and access for all people in the United States

Books recommended in the episode:
Beyond Ally: The Pursuit of Racial Justice by Dr. Maysa Akbar
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and his WorkBook: How to Be an Antiracist.
Ghost Boys by Jewel Parker Rhodes

Kevin Booker, Jr – Booker Empowerment LLC
Leadership and diversity training, empowering people to be a better version of themselves.
FB: booker empowerment LLC
@bempowerment Twitter and Instagram

Bits And Bytes by Claus Appel
Link: https://filmmusic.io/song/4688-bits-and-bytes
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Previous Episode: Guy Who Knows A Guy Podcast, Season 2

Guy Who Knows A Guy Podcast, Season 2

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Website

Subscribe: Spotify Apple Podcasts | iHeartRadio

Welcome to the new Season of The Guy Who Knows a Guy Podcast! In this new season, we’ll be answering your questions and solving your problems.

This episode, we’ll be talking about…

  • What to do if your boss says they can’t afford to give you a raise
  • How to handle an employee who makes a big mistake
  • What you should share on social media
  • How to find a new job

Send your questions and feedback to michael@guywhoknowsaguy.com so we can answer them.

We’ll be experimenting with a few different format concepts over the next few weeks, but the common factor will be that it’ll be about how to solve your problems. I’d love to hear your thoughts about what you hear.

Bruce Jones, 1ON1 SEO Training – Podcast Episode 41

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Website

Subscribe: Spotify Apple Podcasts | iHeartRadio

Our guest is Bruce Jones with 1ON1 SEO Training. He teaches people SEO in a simple, understandable, no nonsense way. It’s not arcane magic, and he makes it clear.

Bruce Jones shares with us how he got started in his business as well as some great tips on doing SEO, including the importance of link backs, such as what you get when you go on a podcast and they link back to your web site.

Want to take advantage of the free coaching call I offer in the episode, click here.

To learn more about Virtual Speed Networking, every first Wednesday of the month at 7 PM Eastern, click here.

Theme song produced by Patrick Howard of Four Unicorns Design
Woosh sound from Benjaminharveydesign
https://freesound.org/people/benjaminharveydesign/
Pullquote music: Perls by MusicParadise License

Thanks to Pat Helmers of Habanero Media for all his great advice in getting this podcast back up and running.

Need an introduction from The Guy Who Knows A Guy?
I Got A Guy!

Dylan Pilon, Cloud Nine Marketing Group – Episode 40

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Website

Subscribe: Spotify Apple Podcasts | iHeartRadio

In this episode, we interview Dylan Pilon. His Cloud Nine Marketing Group leverages collaboration to create a powerful team of marketing professionals to deliver a variety of solutions to his clients.

In this interview, we talk about the importance of branding, why you have to keep marketing especially in hard times, and what’s new in digital strategy including LinkedIn and Tiktok.

This interview with Dylan Pilon was originally recorded on July 2nd, 2020.

Be sure to check out our upcoming Virtual Speed Networking events on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month.

Theme song produced by Patrick Howard of Four Unicorns Design
Woosh sound from Benjaminharveydesign
https://freesound.org/people/benjaminharveydesign/
Pullquote music: Perls by MusicParadise License

Thanks to Pat Helmers of Habanero Media for all his great advice in getting this podcast back up and running.

Need an introduction from The Guy Who Knows A Guy?
I Got A Guy!


Previous Episode: David Toney, Real Estate Investor – Episode 39

David Toney, Real Estate Investor – Episode 39

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Website

Subscribe: Spotify Apple Podcasts | iHeartRadio

A great conversation with David Toney of DP Group. He is a real estate investor from Indianapolis. We first connected when David used my I Got A Guy link on my web site to get an introduction to an ARV appraiser in Indianapolis, a city to which I have never been.

We learn about real estate investing, how to get into the business even if you don’t have capital, and a bit about what it takes to be successful in business.

Theme song produced by Patrick Howard of Four Unicorns Design
Woosh sound from Benjaminharveydesign
https://freesound.org/people/benjaminharveydesign/
Pullquote music: Perls by MusicParadise License

Thanks to Pat Helmers of Habanero Media for all his great advice in getting this podcast back up and running.

Need an introduction from The Guy Who Knows A Guy?
I Got A Guy!


Previous Episode: Dr. Michelle Tichy, Educational Psychology Expert

I reached 200,000 people on Facebook, and so can you

Facebook Reach 200,000

On the side of my Facebook page there is an “insights” box that tells me useful information like the total number of people I’ve reached in the last 28 days and how many post engagements I got. Over the past few months, I have watch these numbers climb up and up and up.

I’m going to share with you how I got these numbers.

Continue reading “I reached 200,000 people on Facebook, and so can you”

Where Did Michael Whitehouse Come From?

Michael Whitehouse as the chair of Pi-Con in 2006.
That was me in 2006. More hair. Less gut. And running a sci fi convention.

For many people who know me, I sprang full formed out of the Earth in 2014 as a connector and master networker. At least that’s how it might seem. I built my network so rapidly, that my personal brand went straight from unknown to “guy who knows a guy”.

But before 2014, I walked this Earth for 34 years, and there’s a lot that happened in that time.

Continue reading “Where Did Michael Whitehouse Come From?”